The last few years have seen a flurry of films designed to retcon away undesirable entries in long-standing franchises. 2016’s Blair Witch treated the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 as a movie-within-a-movie as it continued the story of the 1999 independent film The Blair Witch Project; 2018’s Halloween ignored all nine installments in that franchise after the 1978 original; and this year’s forthcoming Candyman follow-up intends to ignore 1995’s Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead, while Ghostbusters: Afterlife will disregard 2016’s franchise reboot Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.
The most recent entry in this incredibly niche genre is 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, Tim Miller’s disappointing second directorial effort after 2016’s Deadpool. The sixth big-screen installment in James Cameron’s science-fiction franchise serves as a direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels ever produced. The film thereby sweeps away 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the Fox television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 2009’s Terminator Salvation and 2015’s Terminator Genisys, which itself previously attempted to internally reboot the franchise with an overdose of convoluted time travel.
Dark Fate‘s opening sequence makes it incontrovertibly clear that nothing after Terminator and Judgment Day counts, picking up just three years after the destruction of Cyberdyne and featuring the return of Edward Furlong (or at least, his computer-generated likeness) after a 28-year absence. He once more portrays John Connor, who’s been played in the interim by Nick Stahl, Thomas Dekker, Christian Bale and Jason Clarke as the future leader of the human resistance in the War Against the Machines. Or so we believed.
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Because just minutes into the film, the son of waitress-turned-warrior Sarah Connor is summarily shot to death on a Guatemalan beach by a T-800. One gets the sense that Cameron approached this return to his Terminatorverse by literally acting on the words of Kylo Ren when he said to “let the past die; kill it, if you have to.” The jarring twist stunned and angered many longtime fans of the franchise, but series headliner Linda Hamilton recently defended the film’s shocking prologue.
“I thought it was a great leaping-off point for my character,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a very good story point. I’m not one that clings to past ideas. Judgment Day was about John, but John wouldn’t exist without Sarah.”
Hamilton seems to be making the justifiable argument that Terminator, Judgment Day and Dark Fate are meant to function as a trilogy that begins and ends with Sarah Connor, an ordinary woman driven to extremes by forces far beyond her comprehension. And frankly, we agree with her.
Terminator: Dark Fate is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD as well as digital download, while a television series is reportedly in development at Hulu.